GRINNELL - This was always going to be about the quarterback.
Could Webster City stop him? Could Webster City at least slow him down from the Porsche 911 Carrera that he's been to a more economical Honda Accord?
The answers: Heck no and heck no.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City junior strong safety Alex Oswald (3) comes up and sticks Grinnell wide receiver Joe Nowasell (5) for a minimal gain during the first half last night in Grinnell. The No. 2-ranked Tigers broke out in the second half to beat the Lynx, 38-14 in a Class 3A playoffs opener.
Junior signal caller Eli Dunne painted the picture and delivered the goods to market for second-ranked Grinnell last night, as he went over 2,000 yards passing on the season in a 38-14 victory over Webster City in a Class 3A state playoffs first round test.
The Tigers (10-0) advanced to Monday's second round against Clear Lake (8-2) - a 35-0 winner over Boone last night - while the Lynx (4-6) stumbled into the offseason with their fifth straight loss. But, truth be told, head coach Bob Howard's team played its best game since a Week 4 27-7 win over Iowa Falls-Alden. It was simply too much Dunne.
"He's very good, there's no doubt about that," Howard, who suffered just his third losing season in 36 years on the sideline, said afterwards. "We gave them all they wanted in the first half and we tried to mix in some man (defense) and stuff, but he's just dang good."
Webster City0 7 0 7-14
Grinnell9 0 14 15-38
GRIN - FG Christian Mertens 25, 6:09.
GRIN - Joe Nowasell 51 pass from Eli Dunne (pass failed), 2:49.
WCHS - Connor Larson 5 run (Kirk Greenley kick), 0:38.
GRIN - Zach McGriff 15 pass from Dunne (Mertens kick), 9:46.
GRIN - Kajuan Stalling 15 pass from Dunne (Mertens kick), 3:50.
GRIN - Nowasell 56 pass from Dunne (Mertens kick), 9:24.
GRIN - Bryce Lidtka 24 run (Lidtka pass from Mertens), 7:08.
WCHS - Boone Myers 16 pass from Trey Tesdahl (Greenley kick), 1:25.
Rushing - WCHS: Connor Larson 19-121, Austin Myers 13-85, Trey Tesdahl 18-44, Nelson Ball 3-10. GRIN: Bryce Lidtka 11-122, Jordan Beck 2-11, Kajuan Stalling 3-6, Eli Dunne 3-(10).
Passing - WCHS: Tesdahl 9-18-2 127. GRIN: Dunne 22-33-0 401, Nick Wallace 0-1-1 0.
Receiving - WCHS: Ben Mossman 4-66, Boone Myers 3-34, Ball 2-27. GRIN: Joe Nowasell 8-199, Christian Mertens 5-71, Stallings 2-52, Zach McGriff 4-43, Jack Leshen 3-36.
Tackles (leaders) - WCHS: Alex Oswald 9, Ball 5, Tesdahl 4.
Dunne completed 22 of 33 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns. He was an electric 14 of 18 for 231 yards and three scores in the second half after the Lynx stayed within 9-7 over the initial 24 minutes.
"We asked the kids to come out and battle. The chances of beating them probably weren't that good, but at least go down fighting and they sure did that," Howard said.
Joe Nowasell was Dunne's favorite target. He hauled in eight catches for 199 yards, including touchdown receptions of 51 and 56 yards in the first and fourth quarters. Christian Mertens reeled in five catches for 71 yards, and Zach McGriff and Kajuan Stallings also found the end zone after hauling in passes from Dunne.
WCHS received 121 yards rushing and a touchdown from junior tailback Connor Larson. He went over 1,000 yards on the season on a 46-yard gallop down the sideline late in the first quarter and finished the year with 1,093 yards and 14 scores.
Larson punctuated a strong first half for the Lynx with a tough 5-yard run that finished with him diving over the goal line with 38 seconds remaining in the first half to pull the Lynx within 9-7.
WCHS could have, and maybe should have, led at the half, but an earlier touchdown run by Larson was waved off on a holding penalty at the Tigers' 3-yard line. The Lynx were pushed back and eventually threw an interception on third-and-goal from the 16.
They turned the ball over twice in the first half and three times in all, something Howard said they couldn't do if they wanted to put a real scare into the Tigers.
"The biggest issue was we were so consistently inconsistent," Howard said. "Had we finished that drive (in the first half) and not had that holding penalty, we could have been ahead at halftime. Now, that doesn't mean we were going to win the game though."
Dunne - who wasn't exactly chopped liver in the first half, connecting on 8 of 15 passes for 160 yards - took the Lynx secondary to school in the third and fourth quarters before he exited with just under 2 minutes remaining. He hit slants, crossing patters and screens to keep the Lynx stuck on their heels.
He hit McGriff and Stallings with matching 15-yard touchdown passes in the third quarter to extend the Tigers' lead to 23-7, and then rifled off his best pass of the night - a towering bomb down the sideline that hit Nowasell in stride for a 56-yard score with 9:24 remaining.
Tigers' tailback Bryce Lidtka turned out the lights with a 24-yard scamper over left tackle and to the house with 7:08 left on the clock. He ripped off 122 yards rushing on just 11 carries, mostly due to the fact that the Lynx defense was so spread out waiting for Dunne to pounce.
WCHS ended Grinnell's 29-0 run late in the final period on a 16-yard touchdown strike from Trey Tesdahl to Boone Myers. The senior tight end caught the ball near the 6-yard line and then pulled three defenders the rest of the way across the goal line.
Tesdahl accounted for 171 yards of offense. He completed 9 of 18 passes for 127 yards and also rambled for 44 on the ground. Wingback Austin Myers had his most productive outing of the season with 85 yards rushing on 13 totes.
Junior Alex Oswald returned from a two-week absence to spearhead the Lynx defense with nine tackles. He began the game at strong safety, but eventually moved up to help at the point of the attack.
"I thought Ozzie played a fantastic game on defense," Howard said. "He's probably our best tackler, and he's tough and he's strong."
Oswald also came up with a first-half interception thrown by Tigers' back-up quarterback Nick Wallace on a fake field goal attempt.